Monday, May 16, 2011

Status Update

I want to tell you the story of Sam. It’s not a happy story, it’s not a story, it just is… It’s the story of a man who rose to great heights then, in a sudden turn of events came crashing down into the harsh world of reality… This is Sam’s story.
Sam was your typical all-American male. At age 18 he was on his way to college to pursue a degree in some field that appealed to him. But that isn’t the point of this story. At age 18, Sam discovered a talent he possessed that had been buried deep within him since childhood and only came forth when he entered the Age. The Age was a revolutionary time period when the full force of the Internet came into effect, sweeping the world faster than anyone could have predicted. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google struck with a fury, capturing anyone in their path. It was incredible and horrific all at once.
When Sam got to college, he met this maze-like world and was drawn in. His Facebook account became an integral part of his day. Checking it for updates and notifications became part of his every day routine. Twitter-ing was his prized hobby. YouTube? His channel was constantly being updated. And he Google’d with the best of them. Yet it was his unique talent that brought him into the spotlight.
            One night, when Sam was feeling particularly burdened by his workload, he took a break to check his Facebook. Once logged in, he went to update his status. He typed in a message, exactly 160 characters, the limit he was allowed.
            Then he went to his Twitter and did the same. 160 characters, no more, no less. Sam felt… strange. He didn’t mean to do it. It just came out that way. The jumble of his thoughts at the late hour managed to fit into only 160 characters. Ironic, Sam thought.
            Without pause, he began typing status updates into a Word document. 160 characters exactly, without even counting as he did typed. Witty thoughts, uplifting quotes and insightful observations filled the document. Sam couldn’t stop himself. He wanted to update his status but he knew it was “uncool” to do so frequently. And so began a 100 day journey for Sam where each day he would update his status, 160 characters that’s all, updating the world with his daily doings and thoughts. He began a friend-ing rampage, becoming friends with anyone he had ever said hi to, passed on the street, or who shared a mutual friend. Soon he had to turn his Facebook profile into a page to accommodate his growing number of friends, joining the ranks of those who could be “liked”. He stopped friend-ing people, because they started friend-ing him!
            It wasn’t too long after that news station got wind of Sam and his prolific status updates, Twitter feed and his unique literary prowess spread faster than a viral video.
            “Sam? Oh yea! I read him every day!” people would gush. Comments and likes filled his notification feed and Sam couldn’t contain his glee.
            “They are reading me,” he thought victoriously.
            A publisher called to sign a book deal. Publicists wanted him as a client. It was a whirlwind of deals and dollars, slowly, yet efficiently sucking Sam away from anything that ever meant anything to him. His studies slid into oblivion and his friends outside of his computer never quite seemed to fit into his schedule. Sam was too busy updating his status and Tweeting. He made YouTube videos thanking all his followers, showing an in-depth looking into the genius work he did and keeping everyone informed about his life.
The Age had captured Sam in a lethal grip….
            One day, Sam went on a morning news show to be interviewed.
            “So Sam,” they began, “What do your friends think of you?”
            “They like me SO much,” Sam gushed, smiling like a fool for the camera. It was really a miracle he looked as polished as he did, considering he hardly exercised and usually forgot personal hygiene. He had more important things to take care of.
            “Haha Sam, you’re so funny! Just like your statuses,” the interviewer laughed, “But really Sam, what do your non-Facebook friends think of you?” The interviewer smiled, awaiting Sam’s answer. And waited… and waited…
            “Sam?”
            Sam smiled weakly. “Um…”
            “Well you think about that, we’re gonna have a quick break.” The red light on top of the camera went off and Sam ran. He bolted out of the studio into the street.
            He held his Blackberry in his trembling hands. He had nothing to say… nothing to Tweet or post… He suddenly came to a sickening realization.
            He wasn’t communicating with people… he wasn’t enlightening anyone. When he updated his status, he thought he was educating the masses… instead, he was shouting into the darkness hoping someone was listening enough to acknowledge his brilliance. No one was really listening to him.
            Sam thought back to the past few months… A social life? The only thing social that Sam knew was a social network. Friends? They were merely tiny profile icons on his news feed. Sam’s existence was based solely on the trappings of the Internet and nothing else. He was what he posted or Tweeted… fleeting words on a luminescent screen that brought no light. He existed only for the “Update” button on his screen.
            Sam clicked methodically until he got to his Facebook page and saw… no comments… no likes… no notifications. Nothing. It was the first time in months that he had checked and no little red circle alerted him. Sam couldn’t breathe. He had been something so great, so followed and so liked and now he had faded into the recesses of the bottom of a news feed, forgotten and disappearing into the tangled web he had trapped himself in.
            And that's the story of Sam... Sam was a star… and then he was last week’s Twitter update, lost in the jumble of his own desperate shouts into the gray world that neither captured the heart or the mind… instead, they stole his soul.

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